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The Weekly Gut Check - Vol. 124
Fantasy Football Do’s, Don’ts, and Try At Least Once

Rookie Scouting Portfolio The “Gut Feeling” is often synonymous with a sense of desperation resulting from a lack of preparation. The Gut Check is a huge proponent of studying the numbers, but there’s a point where one can place too much emphasis on the wrong information. This can result in the undervaluing or overlooking a player’s potential. Therefore, The Weekly Gut Check is devoted to examining the frame of reference behind certain number-driven guidelines that fantasy football owners use to make decisions.

Although The Weekly Gut Check doesn’t claim to be psychic, he does believe that he can dispel certain numbers biases and help you make the best choices for your team. We’ll keep a running tally of The Weekly Gut Check’s insights. This way you can gauge his views as something to seriously consider, or at least seriously consider running the opposite way as fast as you can!

Before I write more stats-laden columns in July and August, I want to share my experiences with fantasy football. This is my 14th year in the hobby. While that’s on par with the average fantasy owner, I still get e-mails from readers who want to know what I think about a variety of things related to fantasy football. Because the range of questions are so broad, I’m going to answer them in the form of a Do’s, Don’ts, and Try At Least Once column.


These are things every fantasy footballer needs to do or they’re simply missing out on the fun of the hobby.

Cultivate A Local League – Once the average guy could access the Internet, fantasy football exploded onto the scene. Not only did information and league management become more convenient and efficient, but you also got to meet and compete with people from around the world. It’s been a kick to be in leagues with people whose advice I read in newsstand magazines at the turn of the century.

Despite having the thrill of competing with other writers from various sites, there’s nothing like a good local league. My first league ever was a local league and going into its 16th season it’s still one of my favorite leagues. Here’s my reasons for competing locally:

  1. Draft Day becomes a local holiday – Baseball fans have opening day, basketball fans have the Final Four, and Soccer fans have the World Cup. Fantasy football owners in a local league have the draft. If you’ve somehow been brought up in fantasy football as strictly an Internet league player, you’re missing out on one of the great joys of this hobby. If you’re the latter-climbing corporate type, don’t count your work league as a local league unless you eliminated the kiss up factor by excluding the bosses. You don’t want your league becoming a bad parody of The Office.

    This needs to be league of guys you can hang with, drink, prank, gamble, and act like complete idiots. Any local league worth its salt is done on a Friday or you at least get together on Friday night as if it’s the “eve” of a national holiday. Our pre-draft events included keg parties with all-night poker and Madden tourneys to golf, actual football games, and barhopping. Not like I need to tell you how to have fun. I’m sure my league’s events are tame by comparison to some of the ones I’ve heard elsewhere. In fact, if Cheaters wants to do a gang bust episode, they should consider the post draft festivities of some of the leagues I’ve heard about.

    As anyone with a local league can tell you, the history becomes richer, the rivalries become more intense (if you have committed owners), the draft becomes a revered event, and the history becomes more revered. Most of owners say it’s like returning to that feeling of Christmas morning as a kid. What you get out of a local league are time-honored traditions. That leads to the next thing to do…

  2. AABFFL Trophy
    Create a trophy for your league – While I enjoy playing in money leagues, some of the best leagues I’ve competed in have no prize money. The motivation is nothing more than a trophy. There are tons of options available ranging from products that manufacturers market specifically to fantasy leagues to home made deals like this one in my longstanding re-draft league (AABFFL)...nothing like a nerf ball painted gold and mounted atop some table legs to get the competitive juices flowing.

    One of my favorites was the Horses’ Rear Trophy we gave to the winner of a dynasty league. It cost $2.95 and it was the hardware he could keep after his year with the traveling trophy is up. By the way Bill, as the 2007 champ I want to remind you that your 2006 stint with the trophy is coming to an end…get it ready for me.

  3. Make creative side bets with league owners – last week I accepted a signature bet on the FFToday Forums with “Moz.” He’s betting Darren McFadden’s 2008 production in a point per reception league will earn him a top 15 ranking among RBs. If he wins, I have to keep a signature on my forum profile where I recognize he was right and I was wrong. It’s an entertaining side bet for the season, but there are far more creative wagers that can make even a weekly match up a must-watch event. Here’s a side bet I made with a co-owner about 10-12 years ago:

    I had a rivalry with another owner who loved to talk trash. We both had contending teams on a regular basis but even if our teams were dead to rights this would have been fun. We agreed to go to the grocery store on game day of our match up and buy all the food we could eat – chips, dips, colas, beers, barbeque, cookies, and candy. You name it and we probably bought it. We got to his house, settled in for the games, and gorged ourselves all day long with the knowledge that whoever lost our match up had to pay the grocery bill. It was a great way to start the trash talking (and end the day as I grabbed some of my winnings at the end of the night and walked out his front door).

  4. Share fantasy football with your kids – TC Cannon does an admirable job of promoting fantasy football for kids. He runs a site devoted solely to kids between 10-18 who want to play – check it out if you want to get your kids into the game without hovering too closely.

    But I imagine there’s nothing like sharing the love of the game with your child if he or she is truly interested in football. And what better hobby to share with your kids than fantasy football? Depending on their age and level of development they learn strategy, analytical skills involving math, good observation, attention to detail, and when to take chances. It also teaches sportsmanship and appreciation of this great game in all its complexity.

    Can you imagine Mike MacGregor teaching his kids how to use the Compiler and Draft Buddy?

    Mike – You click this arrow and it shows you all the wide receivers who are good choices in this round…

    Lil’ Mac – Dad, why isn’t Bernard Berriam on the list?

    Mike – His name is ‘Berrian…’

    Lil’ Mac – Then why does Uncle Matty call him Berriam?

    Mike – Uncle Matty is a Crank.

    Lil’ Mac – Oh.

    Mike – Now, see that number under that column that says…

    Lil Mac – Dad?

    Mike – Yeah?

    Lil’ Mac – Why isn’t the Crank Score in the Compiler?

    Mike – (I’m going to kill Waldman)…

  5. Buy the Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy – Insert pre-designed promotional plug here? Not really. I just happen to appreciate that Mike MacGregor has built a great application to make our lives easier and enjoy as many drafts as we possibly can in one summer. If you aren’t trying to hide from your significant other, then this application will save your relationship. It’s like the Phil McGraw of fantasy draft applications. I bet if we ask him, we can get some sound bites of Dr. Texas Twang dishing out his homespun advice when you run over your allotted time. If you haven’t tried the Compiler & Draft Buddy, I’m certain you’ll become a regular user.

  6. Go with your gut on one player – Fantasy football is loaded with stats, trends, and strategies, but trust your initial impression. Although this great writer doesn’t like the words “intuition” or “gut feeling,” the concept he writes about is accurate for any long-time observer of football who understands enough of the game to make quick conclusions. It’s also more gratifying than anything to see one’s gut feeling play out to expectation. My first player I drafted in this way was my final pick, Derrick Alexander who put up a 1099-yard, 9-TD season in 1996. Others included Terrell Owens (1998), Edgerrin James (1999), Clinton Portis (2002), and Larry Johnson (2005). This year I have a strong feeling about Ricky Williams (notice I didn’t hit on every year of my 14 years of play).

  7. Make slight reaches in your drafts – There’s nothing wrong with a calculated risk. So many owners go by the book that the best way to get the player you want in a snake draft is to reach a bit higher for a player whose best value comes later. Unless you enjoy watching a player blow up that you contemplated taking 2-3 rounds earlier but passed him over because you didn’t want to risk league ridicule, make the reach on at least a player or two.

  8. Participate in at least one mock draft before the real deal – Experimentation and practice will help you figure out which players you’ll be happiest with on your roster. The more you mock, the more you’ll be compelled to research tougher calls among multiple choices in situations you didn’t anticipate until you practiced. Knowing what you’re comfortable choosing from in the mid-rounds will have a larger impact on what you’re seeking earlier.


Steer clear of doing these things in fantasy football:

  1. Cheer when a player gets hurt – This is the one case in life where I believe it’s ok to be phony. No matter how tempting, don’t cheer for a player getting hurt. I don’t care if it’s Terrell Owens getting his jaw broken a series after simulating a bowel movement on the team logo after a touchdown one week after he compared Bill Belicheck to J. Edgar Hoover in drag. When a player gets hurt, there’s nothing to cheer about. Even if you think 90 percent of the wide receivers in the NFL belong on a VH-1 or MTV reality show (You know its going to happen one day – One house, seven former players. T.O., Moss, Keyshawn, Irvin, Carter, Rice, and Rison all competing in humiliating challenges for prizes and the chance to be pimped by reality TV as it’s A-1 #%@~!) suck it up and repeat after me—“That’s a shame.” You can’t even laugh when a kicker tears his ACL celebrating wildly over routine kick in the first quarter. But did I say in the case of diva receivers getting hurt that smiling is ok?

  2. Place too great an importance in preseason strength of schedule – Let’s get something straight. With the level of parity, rate of injury, and annual turnover of rosters (retirement, free agency, trades, and the draft) in the NFL there’s no way I trust any SOS ranking until at least 3-4 games into the regular season. New Orleans had the second easiest strength of schedule according to one well-known prognosticator last preseason. By October, anyone owning Saints players was ready to abandoning ship because the analysis couldn’t take into account the changes to “easy” defenses from 2006 like the Titans. Same for the Carolina Panthers who, according to the same source, wouldn’t play a top tier unit until just before the fantasy playoffs.

  3. Draft the player on the cover of Madden – I’m not really a superstitious guy, but it is strange that every player on the cover of the EA Sports Madden football game gets hurt. Funny enough, both times a Tennessee Titan accepted a cover, they were able to complete the season, but with a noticeable decline in production. This year, the cover player is NFL-Iron Man Brett Favre. Think EA Sports had trouble finding a suitable candidate? Even if Farve weren’t retired I’d probably shy away from him if he were still on the cover. Then again, Favre just might have been unorthodox enough to thrive off the curse. Maybe they need to check the waters in Tennessee, spot the active ingredient, and create a more concentrated version of it for consumption in 2010. That is unless they decide to make newly retired players their covers from this point forward. Probably a good idea…

  4. Use team quarterbacks – My local league began with this approach, but unless you play in a no-waiver wire set up or you’re in a league with a bunch of first-time players and need to keep it simple, I don’t understand the appeal of the concept.

  5. Follow the letter of the law as a commissioner when following the spirit of the law will save the league – There’s nothing worse that nitpicking, task-oriented leadership. Especially in an event that is supposed to be fun. If an owner picks the wrong player with the online draft application, takes an extra moment to select a player, or there’s an issue that doesn’t have a clearly defined rule to resolve it, try to do what’s right rather than simply what’s “correct.” Make sure you select a league commissioner who has common sense and isn’t afraid to be unpopular with his decisions.

  6. Collude with a fellow owner – If you can’t acquire players fairly then you don’t deserve the spoils. In fact you don’t deserve to compete in a league, period. I’m very liberal when it comes to the fairness of trades, but there is a line. Late in the season one year we had an owner make a trade for a top-tier player in exchange for a scrub. The fact the owner giving up the all-star was out of contention, turned down a better offer a week earlier, and was the contending owner’s relative made it clear the deal was collusion. This happened over a decade ago. Our response the following year was to institute a no-trade rule after a specific week during the regular season. But the fact we didn’t deal with the issue immediately meant the next year the offending owner endured a ton of scrutiny for a deal that was far tamer in comparison. He also lost the trust of much of the league for several years. Nowadays this offending deal would never fly in most leagues, but do yourself a favor and talk about collusion before your draft and explain there will be no tolerance for it if the league decides a trade is collusive.

Try At Least Once

  1. An entire draft where you take huge chances – Screw strategy or prudent advice and take some huge risks in at least one draft. Pick that rookie you love in the first round or select wide receivers with your first four picks. There’s several reasons you should give this a shot:

    1. Get it out of your system – If you’re naturally a risk-taker, you might as well take the governor off for a draft and see how it goes. If your team crashes and burns, at least you learn a lesson about the values of proven strategy. If it succeeds, you may discover that you have a knack for picking certain positions or even stumbled upon an innovative approach.

    2. Throw off other owners – An offbeat approach can often motivate other owners to deviate from their plan and you could wind up with players that drop through the cracks because of position runs that you started.

    3. Free yourself from restraints – Draft RBs in the opening two rounds; wait for the QB until round 7; Roy Williams’ ADP is too low for you to take him in round 3.08…With this approach who cares? If you go all out on one draft, you’ll learn a lot faster what you did well and what you didn’t. I’d say it’s better to have one year of disaster and learn from it than continue to make little mistakes each year and have eliminate them over the course of a decade.

    4. Owners will regard you as unpredictable the following year – Owners who compete with you on the regular basis will have a more difficult time scouting you the following year.

  2. Try an auction draft – Has your long-time league lost its luster? Are you sick of seeing players you covet pass you by because you didn’t get a shot to draft them first? Put your money where your mouth is and hold an auction draft. There’s no greater way to display your talent at valuing players correctly than this style of league. The more I participate in auction drafts, the greater believer I am that it is the best and most exciting player selection process.

  3. Play in an IDP league – This opens up the whole new dimension of skill to master and broadens the scope of strategy in the draft, free agency, and trades. It’s just as gratifying to unearth a Justin Tuck or Atari Bigby as it is a Selvin Young or Marques Colston. A full-fledged IDP league comes as close to mimicking the variety of methods NFL GMs can take to build a winning football team. I have a dynasty contender built upon strong redzone targets, great safeties and linebacker corps, a multipurpose threat out the backfield, and an efficient quarterback.